Image/IDW’s Wynonna Earp was published twenty years ago, which explains why I can’t remember a lot of details about the comic book even though I remember the Previews offering and being in the middle of a Wyatt Earp fan phase at the time. It took a legend of the wild west and made the typical 90s Image comic heroine out of it. Beyond that I honestly don’t remember anything. I didn’t keep up with any of the new books published in the 21st century. By that time my comic book money was going to other things like hemorrhoid and gout medicines. What I’m saying, kids, is that I’m old.
I’m still interested in the Wyatt Earp legend. And that’s what made the difference between picking up or passing on that comic. It’s also what made me watch the first two episodes. They are grounding a weird western crime horror show in the Earp legacy and that kind of thing can be fun.
After two episodes, it is clear that this is supposed to be Buffy Summers as Jessica Jones fighting demons in the western town of Purgatory. Purgatory isn’t a town from Wyatt Earp’s history, certainly not his life after the Vengeance Ride. The Vengeance Ride itself would have been a great jump-off point for a demon hunt assuming the Clanton gang was soldiered by demons. But that’s okay. I’ll assume that the Earp legend shifted dramatically after 1882 and repeat to myself “it’s just a show, I should really just relax.”
Wynonna’s past hasn’t been clearly defined yet. She’s been a bad person, had some mental health issues, been afoul of the law, and pissed off a lot of people in her hometown. So far, this works. She comes home to attend a funeral and meets all the usual small town caricatures, reunites with her family and discovers that demons are angry and kill-happy and want Wyatt’s demon-killing gun Peacemaker.
See, in every generation (of Earp) there is chosen a (demon) Slayer. It is Wynonna’s turn even though she doesn’t want the responsibility. She’s a wisecracking, yet troubled soul with a frustrated (mentor) watcher, a naive but lovable (sidekick) sister, and up against a deadly cult of supernatural creatures who have a mission to destroy the latest in a long line of killers of their kind. We also have an undead supporting character with questionable loyalty to the heroine despite their clear sexual chemistry.
The idea is that Wyatt Earp was a demon killer (or he killed people who became demons). Earp had a gun that could kill demons. And his descendants (is it the Earp family? Virgil? James? Because Mattie didn’t have any Earps and I don’t think there were any Josie offspring either) are forced into demon killing jobs ever after.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on TV in 1997, a year after Wynonna Earp launched at Image, so I’m not suggesting Beau Smith lifted Joss Whedon’s secret sauce and slathered it across the pages of his book. The Syfy series, however, is beginning to feel like that was the whole point.
Melanie Scrofano plays Wynonna. She looks and speaks like Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones. If Jessica Jones was a movie, Scrofano’s performance would be the perfect broadcast TV version. Wynonna Earp is supposedly the product of a similar painful history but she comes back home to a pretty supportive town with a decidedly sunnier attitude (sardonic versus sarcastic). Scrofano is funny, engaging and kicks ass, but I can’t help but feel I’ve seen this all before. Still, she can carry the show even with the Whedonesque lines she’s forced to say. She’s taken glib to a point where she’s actually cutting into viewer tension. This early in the series, tension is what we need.
Shamier Anderson plays Agent Dolls, representing a secret police force that combats demons. It is SO secret that it has shiny badges and lots of paperwork to file. It also nukes American towns that learn too much about the very real supernatural threat. The agent knows all about the demons except that the only thing that can kill them is Peacemaker – Wyatt Earp’s supernatural demon-killing gun. He is ostensibly Earp’s mentor, the organized and level-headed contrast to her chaotic gun-slinging. So far, Dolls is about telling us what we need to know regarding the government’s policy on demons, pissing on local law enforcement, and providing some sexual tension with Earp. He is a young, hip Giles.
Dominique Provost-Chalkley plays Wynonna’s little sister Waverly. She is spunky comic relief for now but her insistence on becoming a bigger part of her sister’s war on the demons means she’ll have either a major emotional shift or die this season. If not, we can expect to see more damsel-in-distress stuff like the hanging scene in the pilot. She is Willow and Dawn. I fully expect a “Dark Waverly” episode in our future.
Schitt’s Creek‘s Tom Rozon is Henry Holliday. Yeah, that guy. We know this because he crawled up out of a well and pretends it’s the late 1800s. He’s not a demon but he’s not human. It’s like he’s a demon with a soul or something! His loyalty to Earp is unrevealed. Rozon is taking the Val Kilmer approach to the Georgia dentist’s accent and Michael Biehn’s approach to looking like a homicidal creepazoid. It works for these episodes where we’re not sure what his deal is. I’m curious to see how Doc is handled in this show.
The bad guys are a collection of demons who were humans dispatched by Wyatt Earp (which would be a great story point if they weren’t just Shemps and Snarls waiting to become part of a CGI effect) who are now a cross between The Black Widows biker gang from Every Which Way but Loose and a cattle call for any “Leathery Goon” part in Hollywood.
We have our heroes, our pawns, and our future victims set up by the end of Episode 2. It’s like Smallville on the CW after 9 years – these people should be used to weird, supernatural murder by now but Purgatory is a collection of long-time locals who just don’t seem to be acquainted with the kind of horror the heroes have been describing. I’m sure the reality will dawn on them soon enough.
So far, this show has the charm of Buffy with the weird pulp vibe of Z Nation. It’s total disregard for history is understandable. I’ve made peace with this being an alternate reality, which means I would prefer to see ole Wyatt in this world so I can see his bad-ass demon-hunting self and the resulting Stuart Lake book.